Plum Creek Golf Club southwest of Austin: From shooting at skeet to shooting at flags
KYLE, Texas -- "Pull!" the man shouted from atop the wildflower-covered hill. Less than a second later, a clay pigeon flew out of the barn into the cool, clear blue sky. The shotgun roared and almost immediately the skeet disintegrated mid-flight into multiple pieces.
Less than a decade ago, that was the scene on a large piece of land just south of Austin in the small community of Kyle. Today, the only shots seen or heard on the 250 acres come from a tee box or a fairway, not a barn. Yes, the barn is still there, but 18 holes of beautiful Texas links-style golf now surround it.
Players now putt on the practice green or tee off on the first hole at Plum Creek Golf Club where just years ago skeet fell harmlessly to the ground. Bill Negeley, a big-game hunter who practiced skeet shooting in Kyle in preparation for his exotic hunting trips to Africa, no longer resides in the log cabin-style house. The clubhouse and snack bar now occupy the space. The barn now serves as storage space for course maintenance equipment.
All the changes are thanks solely to the vision of Glenn and Mary Evans. The couple purchased the property from Negeley in the late 1990s. Soon thereafter, golf architect Roy Bechtol was commissioned by the Evans to design the course, which is part of a sprawling community known by the same name.
Bechtol, who teams up with Tom Kite on many golf course designs, maintained much of the natural landscape including the rolling hills when he created Plum Creek.
He also successfully avoided the removal of areas of natural wildflowers that are spread across much of the acreage. While trying to preserve as much of the land as possible, Bechtol also made some additions to the course layout including multiple water features, strategically placed grass mounds and well-guarded greens. Bechtol was able to accomplish all of this in the 7,132-yard layout without any two fairways touching.
Evans, whose background includes being club president at Rancho Mirage in California, also provided some input into the new layout including moderation of bunker placement.
"When Roy Bechtol got finished (with his design), there were 54 bunkers," said J.T. Puckett, head professional and general manager of Plum Creek. "Mr. Evans went in and now there are only 15 on the course."
While sand factors in to play on several holes, it's not the biggest concern when you play Plum Creek. As the case is on any links-style course where trees are at a minimum, wind poses a considerable threat to your score. Depending on the speed, which can reach gusts of up to 30 miles per hour or more on breezy days, and the direction, club selection is crucial. There is no better example of the importance of judging both wind speed and direction than on hole no. 2.
The par-5 No. 2 is the fifth longest hole in the state measuring in at a Texas-sized 659 yards from the back tees. If the wind is in your face, try and make a six. That's as good as a par. Along your journey you must avoid the brush and the natural wildflowers to the right and left, which make the fairway narrow in certain parts. There's also a small creek that crosses the fairway on or around your second shot. All these factors combined make No. 2 the toughest hole at Plum Creek.
While No. 2 is by far the longest hole at Plum Creek, No. 9, runs a close second. This par 5 of 605 yards can play equally difficult, especially on those windy days. With most of the hole uphill, solid contact on each shot from the tee box to the green is required for any chance of salvaging par.
In addition to length, water can adversely affect your score, particularly on the back nine. Nos. 11, 13, 14 and 15 include the wet stuff. No. 14, however, stands out. This par 4 measures 382 yards from the back tees. Not too long by any standards. The tee shot can make all the difference in the world. A drive of 190 yards or plus is a must on this hard dogleg-to-the-right. Anything short will find the small lake. But don't be too long and hit through the dogleg or your ball might finish in the tall brush next to the train track. Your second shot crosses over a tributary that runs from the small pond just in front of the green.
The rest of the backside is not as intimidating but is equally as challenging for the skilled to beginning golfer. Puckett said that's what makes Plum Creek inviting.
"The location of the course on a knob brings the element of wind into play and that's why it is challenging and fun to play."
In addition to that, he said good old-fashioned courteous service is something that he and his staff strive to provide for each customer. He said that's just the way he wants to run the operation. Plus, it's a way for positive word-of-mouth advertising to spread.
"We're off the beaten path and a lot of people don't know where we are even though we're just two miles off of I-35," Puckett said. "We try and provide friendly service and make it a pleasant experience for those who come out. We hope they come back and bring a friend with them."